Loose nut costs Air Force $62.4 million in accident

Washington (CNN)A reconnaissance airplane almost crashed in April, endangering the lives of 27 airmen aboard the plane — all because a retaining nut connecting oxygen tubing was not tightened properly, accident investigators have determined. The report blamed a private defense contracting company for the accident.

“Failure by L-3 Communications depot maintenance personnel to tighten a retaining nut connecting a metal oxygen tube to a junction fitting above the galley properly caused an oxygen leak. This leak created a highly flammable oxygen-rich environment that ignited,” U.S. Air Force investigators wrote in report published August 3.

Investigators determined the ensuing fire caused $62.4 millon in damage to the RC-135V, which electronically snoops on adversaries and relays gathered intelligence to commanders.

L-3 Communications spokesman Bruce Rogowski declined comment and referred questions to the Air Force.

The plane, which was about to take off on a training mission from Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska on April 30, instead skidded to a stop on the runway. All 27 crew members made it off safely, The Omaha World-Herald reported.

The World-Herald first obtained the report through a Freedom of Information Act request.

A former pilot contacted by the paper estimated that had the plane taken off, all 27 crew members could have died in an ensuing crash.

“This event could have easily been that catastrophic, because of the intensity of the fire,” Robert Hopkins III told the paper. “Had they taken off, it could easily have been fatal.”

The Air Force has 17 RC-135s in its fleet. One of them was intercepted by a Russian SU-27 jet over the Baltic Sea earlier this year in an incident that drew strong criticism from the Pentagon.

The U.S. crew believed the Russian pilot’s actions were “unsafe and unprofessional due to the aggressive maneuvers it performed in close proximity to their aircraft and its high rate of speed,” Pentagon spokesman Mark Wright said in April.

That was not the first time the U.S. has complained about an incident involving a RC-135 and a SU-27. A year earlier, a Russian jet flew within 100 feet of a RC-135 over the Sea of Okhotsk in the western Pacific, according to U.S. officials who called it “one of the most dangerous close passes in decades.”

By Tom LoBianco, CNN


CBP at Miami International Airport Seizes $228,000 in Counterfeit Currency

MIAMI – U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers at Miami International Airport (MIA) seized $228,100 in counterfeit U.S. currency arriving in a package from Peru last month.

Counterfeit currency seized in Miami.

Counterfeit currency seized in Miami.

On July 23, CBP officers selected the package for an intensive examination and observed several densities in an unusual pattern on the X-ray screen. CBP officers opened the packaged and discovered various cushions including some with unusual densities.

Officers X-rayed the cushions individually and confirmed the densities. CBP officers then cut open the cushions and found  a total of eleven sets of plastic covers taped together.  CBP opened the covers and found a total of $228,100 in suspected counterfeit U. S. currency.

CBP observed that the bills were of poor quality and closer scrutiny questioned their validity. CBP notified the U.S. Secret Service and the bills were determined to be counterfeit. CBP seized the counterfeit currency and turned it over to the U.S. Secret Service for further investigation.

“This seizure is an excellent example of the critical role CBP plays in preventing counterfeit currency from entering the United States,” said Miami International Airport Port Director Christopher Maston. “Our officers collaborate daily with other agencies, such as the U.S. Secret Service, to accomplish CBP’s mission.”

CBP routinely conducts inspection operations on arriving and departing international passengers and cargo, and searches for terrorist weapons, illicit narcotics, unreported currency, counterfeit merchandise, and prohibited agriculture and other products.

Every year the public is victimized by the counterfeiting of United States currency and other U.S. obligations. If you suspect a counterfeit note or have information about counterfeiting activity, please report it immediately to theU.S. Secret Service.

To find out more about CBP operations in Florida, visit @CBPFlorida on Twitter.


Oshkosh Wins $30 Billion Army Contract Battle to Replace Humvee

Oshkosh won the Pentagon’s $30 billion sweepstakes to replace the U.S. Army’s Humvee with up to 55,000 new Joint Light Tactical Vehicles, or JLTVs, over the next 25 years, service officials said.

The Army awarded a $6.7 billion contract Tuesday to Oshkosh for an initial batch of 17,000 vehicles for the Army and Marine Corps. Production will begin in the first quarter of fiscal 2016, according to an Army release, with a later decision on the full scale of production to come in 2018, the year the vehicles are expected to be ready for battle.

“The…contract award moves an important capability closer to our soldiers and Marines and represents an important success for the acquisition community,” said Scott Davis, the Army program executive officer for combat support and combat service support, at the Pentagon shortly after the announcement.

The Wisconsin-based defense firm’s victory follows 14 months of trials of prototypes from Oshkosh and losing bidders AM General and Lockheed Martin. Years of difficult combat in Afghanistan and Iraq, full of harsh terrain and roadside bombs, compelled the Army to seek an armored vehicle to replace the Humvee. They sought a truck that was tougher and better-armored in critical spots, but also agile and capable of off-road maneuvering.

The JLTV is meant to recover the vehicle performance lost when the Army and Marine Corps had to up-armor Humvees to protect troops from an abundance of improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, in Iraq and Afghanistan, said Col. John Cavedo, the former project manager, during Tuesday’s Pentagon briefing.

The armor’s extra weight prevented the Army from using them in battle as planned, Cavedo said. “This is going to allow us to operate the way we had envisioned our light tactical vehicles being able to operate with greater flexibility and … gaining back an expeditionary capability that we lost” when ground forces bought large and heavy MRAPs.


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Business Etiquette Do’s and Dont’s in 5 Emerging Markets

In an increasingly global economy, business travel is on the rise. But investors and entrepreneurs will need to bring more than just capital in order to close deals abroad. In emerging economies such as China, Mexico, and Brazil, observing national business customs can help you build relationships, grow your business, and get a leg up on the competition. Here’s what you need to know when doing business in some of the world’s emerging economies.


China’s very distinct culture can seem intimidating for first-time visitors. One of the most important things to keep in mind when doing business in China is the power of the first impression. It’s customary to be introduced through an intermediary that Chinese counterparts know and trust. A handshake is customary when being introduced, but know that they may last longer than Westerners are accustomed to and are not likely to be as forceful.

When exchanging business cards, the act of giving and receiving should be done with both hands, a signal that you value the interaction. Don’t pocket the business card; instead, place it on the table in front of you.

In Chinese business culture, tremendous value is placed on the relationships between people—known as guanxi and meals are often seen as a way to bond with new associates. Unlike American power lunches, business is rarely discussed over meals in China. Instead, meals should be used as an opportunity for the parties to get to know each other. And don’t forget to sample every dish—it’s considered rude not to try everything.

Bonus tip: Remember: China is the People’s Republic of China. Taiwan is the Republic of China.


Like China, introductions and first impressions are a critical component of Mexican business culture. The cold-calling culture of the U.S. is noticeably absent in Mexico. Instead, use your network to find an associate who can introduce you to Mexican business partners and vouch for your expertise.

Following an introduction, make an effort to be social with your new colleagues. If you’re typically reserved or introverted, be prepared to put in a little extra effort, as socializing is an integral part of business in Mexico. Learning the names of your new contacts’ family members and being able to talk about local sports or cultural interests will help you break the ice.

One bit of Mexican business culture may prove irksome to the visitors from the U.S. It is not uncommon for meetings to be canceled or postponed with little warning. When setting up meetings well in advance, make sure you follow up periodically to confirm. It’s perfectly acceptable to send an email saying that you’re looking forward to meeting them. In fact, some in Mexico regard business meetings with Americans as purely tentative until they are assured that the American visitors are actually present and in the country. Be persistent—but polite—in your follow-ups, even calling the night before.

Bonus tip: Do not make the okay gesture. It’s considered just as rude as giving the middle finger in the U.S.


Business is done a bit differently in Brazil. Brazilian professionals pride themselves on dressing well, so be prepared to invest in your wardrobe before meeting with Brazilian counterparts.

Meetings themselves are likely to be more informal than Americans are accustomed to, and timing and structure much more fluid. Being late and interrupting others are major faux pas in the U.S., but in Brazil, those actions aren’t generally considered rude. In fact, they’re seen as a testament to the relationships with business associates. Your associate is late to the meeting because she is making sure a client fully understands a complex proposal. Another associate interrupts not to argue with you, but to supplement your point. In fact, direct criticism during a meeting will often reflect negatively on the critic, rather than the person being criticized. When you do business with Brazilian partners, you are perhaps more important than the company you represent. Take time to cultivate this relationship, and don’t rush or appear impatient. Let your Brazilian counterparts bring up business first. Once that happens, they may take their time negotiating and spend a lot of time reviewing details. If you do not speak Portuguese, it’s wise to hire a translator, particularly one native to Brazil. Last but not least, always deliver big news face-to-face.

Bonus tip: If you come bearing gifts, avoid the color purple—even flowers. Purple is the color of mourning.


Speaking English is different from acting and thinking like an American. Business partners in India will likely speak fluent English, but it doesn’t mean building a relationship there will be smoother sailing than dealing with other cultures. If anything, the language and other similarities may lull companies into a false sense of familiarity, so it’s important to remain aware of cultural differences.

In India, handshake greetings are common, though not for women. Also common is the namaste greeting, where you bring your palms together at chest level and bow your head slightly. New acquaintances typically trade business cards, using their right hands for the exchange. Treat a card with respect; shoving it in your back pocket won’t go unnoticed. If you’re really looking to impress, have one side of your business card printed in Hindi.

By and large, Indian society is non-confrontational, and saying “no” is considered offensive and disrespectful. As a result, Indians have other, subtle ways of saying “no,” something helpful to keep in mind if you’re hearing non-committal terms such as “It’s possible” or “We can try.” Handle criticism with upmost delicacy. Like many cultures, cultivating personal relationships is key to building business relationships, and understanding these subtleties will go a long way.

Bonus Tip: Expressing an interest in cricket is great way to endear yourself to Indian colleagues. Think of how impressed you’d be if they asked you about the NFL.


Singapore is a melting pot of cultures not unlike North America. Do enough business in Singapore and you’ll meet native Malays as well as Chinese, Arab and Indian immigrants. As such, building business relationships can mean working through extra layers of difficulties, as different groups may bring social customs from their previous homelands to their new country.

In Singapore, different immigrant groups also have their own greetings , so tailor how you say hello to whomever you’re meeting with. Malay women generally do not shake hands; instead, greet them by placing your hand over your heart. Use the namaste greeting when meeting with Indian women. When meeting most men, a handshake will suffice, and it doesn’t have to be firm. Some more traditional Chinese residents may bow as a greeting, but won’t expect you to.

As in India, “no” is an unpleasant word in Singapore culture, and you should avoid using it, too. If that’s the appropriate response, saying “We’ll see” is preferred. Likewise, “yes” doesn’t always mean yes. You’ll be expected to read between the lines to understand what the speaker really means. If you’re still unsure what an answer means, ask the question again later. If you’re told, “We’ll see” twice, that may mean “no.” Saving and keeping face is important in Singapore, and much is done to keep relationships harmonious. Always be polite, professional, and patient; it will be difficult to recover face if you disrupt that harmony by being disagreeable.

Bonus Tip: Some colleagues in Singapore may be Arabic Muslims, and will avoid alcohol and pork.

International business etiquette may be tough to master, but a little effort goes a long way. It won’t just save you from embarrassment—it may be the deciding factor on the deal of a lifetime.



ERAM Not the Cause of Major Flight Delays, FAA Says

FAA: “A new function in the latest ERAM software upgrade provided individual controllers with the ability to set up a customized window of frequently referenced data. This information was supposed to be completely removed from the system as controllers deleted it. However, as controllers adjusted their unique settings, those changes remained in memory until the storage limit was filled. This consumed processing power needed for the successful operation of the overall system. By temporarily suspending the use of this function, we have eliminated the possibility of this particular issue from occurring again. The FAA is working with Lockheed on a permanent solution and the company is closely examining why the issue was not identified during testing.” According to a statement released on the agency’s Facebook page, preliminary information about flight activity resulting from the incident indicated that the automation problem caused 492 related delays and 476 cancellations. “The FAA reduced the arrival and departure rates in the area from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. for safety reasons. That resulted in about 70 percent of the average normal Saturday traffic at [Baltimore Washington International Airport] BWI, 72 percent at [Reagan National Airport] DCA, and 88 percent at [Dulles International Airport] IAD. The FAA is continuing to diagnose the cause of yesterday’s problem, and has not seen a reoccurrence of the original issues,” the agency said. The two major airports serving the Washington D.C. region, Reagan National and Dulles International, were particularly impacted by the automation problem. Airports serving the New York area also suffered major delays. Flights with routes that normally traverse the Washington D.C. region airspace, such as JetBlue 927 between Newark and Orlando, were re-routed out over the Atlantic Ocean and other areas, according to live air traffic radar tracking data from FlightRadar24, an Internet-based flight tracking application. A representative for American Airlines, the carrier with the largest presence at Reagan National, said an estimated 40 percent of their flights were cancelled or delayed on Saturday. “FAA instituted a low-altitude flight plan for flights under 10,000 feet so we had significant delays and/or cancellations at Regan International and Dulles International airports,” Kimberly Gibbs, a spokesperson for Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA) told Avionics Magazine. “As the afternoon progressed, their system was able to come back online and airlines worked with FAA to recoup those delays and cancelled flights. On Sunday we had a pretty busy travel day but normal operations at both of our airports, and as of today operations still remain normal.” The Washington Air Traffic Control (ATC) center in Leesburg, Va. is among the 24 air traffic facilities within the NAS tasked with managing high altitude aircraft, or those flying above 20,000 feet. Below that altitude, traffic is managed by controllers located at Terminal Radar Approach Control Facilities (TRACONS), none of which in the Washington D.C. area were impacted by the automation problem confined to ZDC.

U.S. Marines Say F-35 is Ready for War

The Pentagon has declared the U.S. Marine Corps version of the F-35 joint strike fighter ready for war, seven years later than planned in 2001, when the U.S. launched its ambitious project to build a common warplane for the military and its closest allies.

The battle-ready milestone marks the most significant moment for the $400 billion program, the most expensive project in Pentagon history.

“The weapons system is now in the warfighters’ hands and can be called upon to do its mission,” Air Force Lt. Gen. Christopher Bogdan, the F-35 program manager said in a statement.

To obtain battle-ready status, which the military dubs initial operational capability, a new weapon must meet a series of benchmarks. The Marines wrung the jet out in a recent five-day, live-fire evaluation. The verdict: today’s jets can perform basic military missions effectively in combat.

“It is capable of conducting close air support, offensive and defensive counter air, air interdiction, assault support escort and armed reconnaissance as part of a Marine Air Ground Task Force, or in support of the joint force,” Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Joseph Dunford said in a statement. Future versions of the F-35, of course, will receive various improvements.

If needed, the Pentagon could deploy 10 aircraft from Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121 at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma on a Navy amphibious assault ship or to an austere location somewhere the world. Still, the jet is not expected to join the airstrike campaign against Islamic State militants right away.

The Marine F-35 – which can take off from short runways and land vertically like a helicopter – will replace the Corps’ AV-8B Harriers, F/A-18 Hornets, and EA-6B Prowler.

The Air Force is expected to declare its version of the F-35 ready for war next year; the Navy, in 2018 or 2019.